It seems a long time since the All Golds last stepped onto the pitch for a competitive game. Their Coral Challenge Cup defeat by Drighlington took place in the cold last days of January.
Since then, the squad has been training hard and are eager to put that training into practice out on the pitch.
“The boys are really revving up for the game and come Saturday, they’ll be ready for Valley Cougars,” said head coach Marcus Brown. “At training this week, we focused on getting into shape and completing our sets”, he added.
“We respect Valley but come 3pm we need to be hitting fifth gear to be ready to compete with them.
“It should be a great game of rugby league for the new southern league competition.”
The Cougars will be tough opponents especially in their own back yard and are among the favourites for at least a semi final place in what, as Brown recognises, promises to be a very competitive league. However, the All Golds will also fancy their chances of reaching that stage of the competition.
The sides have plenty of history and have clashed before when the semi-professional Gloucestershire All Golds club’s Academy side competed in the Conference League South in 2016.
Then, the sides played each other four times with the Cougars coming out on top on each occasion.
The games between them were all tough, physical encounters. The All Golds went down 36-28 at Gordon League RFC and the Welsh side had the upper hand on home soil winning narrowly 24-20 in an epic contest and more comfortably 48-0 against a young All Golds side whose effort and courage was not recognised on the scoreboard.
The sides then met again in Wales in the semi finals with the Cougars progressing to their third consecutive Grand Final with a 26-12 win, though in that Final they finished runners up to London Chargers.
More recently, both clubs have enjoyed success.
While the All Golds completed a memorable unbeaten season in 2018, winning the West of England title and the Harry Jepson Trophy, Valley Cougars retained the Welsh Premier Division title, defeating Torfaen Tigers for the second year in a row.
The Cougars had previously won the Welsh title in 2008 against the Blackwood Bulldogs and in 2010, defeating the Bridgend Blue Bulls, before moving into the Conference League South.
Interestingly, the last game between the sides in September 2016 featured five All Golds likely to be in the squad this weekend. Full back Jack Uren, centre Aedan Coleman, halfback Kieran Webb, hooker Luke Stephens and prop Mitch Dent all have experience of facing the Cougars and will want to get off to a strong start this season by securing the club’s first win over the Cougars.
Kick off at Nelson RFC, Caerphilly, is 3pm.
The other fixture in the West division of the Southern Conference League sees Swindon St George travel to Torfaen Tigers who opened their campaign last weekend with a resounding 50-14 win over Cardiff Blue Dragons.
The five teams in the West division, (the All Golds, Cardiff, Torfaen, the Cougars and Swindon) play each other three times before the top four progress to the quarter finals at the end of August. There they will pit themselves against the top four from the East division with the hope of reaching the Grand Final at the Aldershot Military Stadium on Saturday 14 September.
(Image courtesy Lewis Mitchell photography)